deborah: the Library of Congress cataloging numbers for children's literature, technology, and library science (Default)
I spent two and a half hours yesterday in the ophthalmologist's waiting room with dilated eyes, like you do, so I ended up listening to several podcasts. And by pure serendipity, I had queued up two consecutive literature episodes, each with a children'sand YA lit focus, of non-literature podcasts.

First came the "Why Are Samosas In Every Single Book?" episode of the BuzzFeed podcast, See Something Say Something. (Accompanying recommended book list for See Something Say Something.)

Youth Lit authors Hena Khan and Sara Farizan talk about writing young Pakistani and Iranian characters, and wonder why every single book set in South Asia includes samosas. Plus, they give Ahmed some writing advice and read from their own work. Hena shares an excerpt from her forthcoming novel "Amina's Voice," and Sara reads from "Tell Me Again How a Crush Should Feel".

Then, by sheer coincidence, my phone decided to entertain me in the eyewatering, glaring boredom of the doctor's office with another BuzzFeed podcast: Another Round. The episode, "All Stars: Lit is Lit," isn't explicitly a children's lit episode. But it does feature Jacqueline Woodson, Marley Dias of #1000BlackGirlBooks, and asked a slew of adults when they first saw themselves in books, which led to a very children's and YA lit-centric conversation. (Accompanying recommended book list for Another Round.)

This week, you’ll hear from past guests - prolific writers & avid readers - answering questions ranging from, “When was the first time you saw yourself represented in literature?” to “Why are so many books about white boys and their dogs?" You'll hear from Roxane Gay, Ta-Nehisi Coates, Chirlane McCray, Jacqueline Woodson, Saeed Jones, Jeff Chang, and more. #protip: this is a great episode to suggest to a friend who's new to the show!
Both these episodes were fabulous: interesting, funny, and informative. They also gave me thinky thoughts about representation which I'll put in a second post because they got lengthy.
deborah: the Library of Congress cataloging numbers for children's literature, technology, and library science (Default)
Yet another pass through the cycle that periodically afflicts me.

  • Follow professional colleagues on twitter.
  • Be relatively quiet and well-behaved on twitter because it's a professional forum.
  • Follow more social justice folks on twitter because that's where they are.
  • Tweet more about politics because these issues are important.
  • Get stressed about tweeting about politics because I'm inexplicably followed on twitter by my boss, my grandboss, my great-grandboss, and my CEO.
  • Get equally stressed about tweeting during the workday because see above, even though I'm responsible about when I check it.
  • Hope they have me muted.
  • Follow lots of people using twitter as a long-form platform because the New Web is weird, y'all.
  • Start to long-form tweet because I pick up the languages of cultures I'm immersed in far too quickly.


With a soupçon of "I have all these blog topics half-drafted; why do I never finish them or reply to comments?" and a dash of "I seem to be so destractable and irritable lately."

I did eventually figure out that one of the reasons I was doing long-form tweeting is my perception that more people will read a storify than a blog post (unless it's on medium, *snort*). Which, (a) aargh, whatever, this is not a productive of my focus, and (b) I'm not widely read anyhow. [footnote]

I also keep running into the situation where I'm capable of being ridiculously diplomatic in situations where I believe it's called for (basically, any situation which has already become fraught), but in pretty much any other situation I am my father's daughter. I call that "assuming that in any non-politicized situation everyone is an adult and is willing to speak frankly with each other and hear frank and open opinions", though I suppose my father probably would have called it "not having time for assholes". To be fair, he also would have said something to the effect of "you're your father's daughter, and we're both assholes."

(Sometimes I miss the hell out of my dad. ♥♥♥♥♥)

This has led to the odd situation where some people believe I am incredibly diplomatic and can be called on to moderate awkward conversations, and some people think I am a bull in a china shop and should not be allowed out in public. Both of which are actually situationally true! But twitter, in any case, is one of the situations where it will not occur to me to be incredibly diplomatic, even though almost by his very nature it is already fraught.

It was at this point that I recalled I could disable Echofon notifications on my phone.

I'm hoping this will stick.


Footnote:
Certainly I'm not widely read in the accessibility community, where I'd like to have some influence. On the one hand this is deeply frustrating, because I do have a lot to add to that conversation with respect to technology, usability, and standards. On the other hand, that arguably means I can burn bridges freely.

Which, as I watch (as I have over the last decade) women, people with disabilities, and people of color get shunted to the side in accessibility standards making, accessibility voices cited, and people in the field given credit for their work, is something I have been considering more and more lately. If I'm not going to be allowed to help improve the accessibility of the web as a whole, why not focus on improving the accessibility of individual websites? I am too practical to bang my head against this particular wall forever.

Also, today was my first real mansplain! (Since its coinage.) I mean a For Serious dude in my mentions Calmly Explaining Me Things, when it became clear via three separate threads that he had no idea what he was talking about, and I, who had assumed he knew more than I did because he was so confident about it, was the more more knowledgeable of the two of us.

I was grimly thinking last week about the great day in the future when I will be able to burn all of those aforementioned bridges and speak a truth or too about the way things happen in the accessibility community, when I remembered the also aforementioned "the accessibility community doesn't particularly value my voice." Which again, means I can be tactless enough to make a post such as, say, this one, without even worrying about ticking people off. I could even link to it from twitter, honestly, although that would arguably be counter-productive for my own mental health.
deborah: the Library of Congress cataloging numbers for children's literature, technology, and library science (Default)
One hugely important outgrowths of the #WeNeedDiverseBooks movement has been the understanding the diversity in books requires diversity in authors and illustrators, in the publishing industry, and yes, among reviewers. Malinda Lo compiled her four-part Tumblr essay into "Perceptions of Diversity in Book Reviews" (February 18, 2015), and Jason Lee of Lee & Low Books assembled "The Diversity Baseline Survey" for publishing houses and review journals. A few months ago, School Library Journal released their numbers for race (though oddly not disability or sexuality and gender identity) with Kathy Ishizuka's "Survey Reveals Demographic of SLJ Reviewers (April 27, 2015). Now my editor, Vicky Smith, has released the numbers for Kirkus Reviews.

I know Vicky was working on diversifying the KR review pool for a while before Malinda made her much needed call, which might be part of why KR's numbers, pathetic though they may be as representative of the industry, are less bad than one might expect. I will say that Vicky has never shut me down or edited me out when I've critiqued a text on social justice grounds: race or gender, queerness or disability, fatphobia or class. She asks me to provide page references and source quotations, and occasionally asks me if changes she's learned will appear in the final version of the book (rather than the advanced review copy) will change my assessment. The only person who second-guesses my race or gender analysis is me; years after a review I will sometimes wonder if I've been too harsh (oy, that one book still haunts me) or if I didn't shine enough of a spotlight on something that needed the right attention.

If you want to know why it's legit for a trade reviewer to comment on ideological grounds, ask and I'll make that post. There's a long answer, but the short version is readers want to know. In the case of children's and YA books, teachers and librarians especially want to know.

Anyway, here are a couple of pieces by Vicky:From the latter:
We asked our 110 reviewers to answer four questions: What race do you identify as? What gender? What sexual orientation? Do you have a disability? In just three days, I received 79 responses, and I can't say I'm terribly surprised by the overall results. We are mostly white: 77 percent. We are mostly straight: 76 percent. We are mostly able-bodied and -minded: 81 percent. And—only in children's books, folks—we are overwhelmingly female: 86 percent.


I'm in some of those groups and not others (white, cis, female; queer, disabled). And I fully support the goal to continue diversifying KR, reviewing, and the entire field.
deborah: Kirkus Reviews: OM NOM NOM BRAINS (kirkus)
Let me talk briefly about one of the many reasons I love Kirkus Reviews and my editor.

I've reviewed for many journals over the years, but Kirkus is the only one I've stuck with. Kirkus is also one of the only two major review journals with anonymous reviews. Kirkus claims to have an editorial voice, which is why the unsigned reviews, but while the Children's and YA Editor, Vicky Smith regularly grooms my words, she almost never modifies the thurst of the content without discussing it with me first. Sometimes she asks me for a clarification, a polish, or -- if I've crossed the line from the necessary honesty of which Kirkus reviewers are proud, to the brutality of which we're sometimes accused -- textual support to justify a surfeit of negativity. Sometimes she gives me context I didn't have (such as a publisher's indication they've changed some wording) and asks me to rewrite. Maybe once or twice in my years at Kirkus, at most, she's simply disagreed with me and rewritten in that light.

All of which is far more than she need do, because I am a writer-for-hire both legally and artistically, and while I craft reviews of which I'm proud, my job is to create reviews in the Kirkus editorial voice.

Years ago, I reviewed for another source which did have the reviewers sign the reviews. Each of those reviews was signed with my name. And every one of those reviews was edited extensively. Those edits were comprehensive in word, tone, and thrust, sometimes completely changing my judgement and analysis. As one point I wrote to the journal asking for more feedback about what they wanted me to be writing in the first place, explaining that I felt uncomfortable having my name on "work which has been so greatly modified from my original as to be scarcely recognizable," which was putting it mildly. They misunderstood, explaining they were grateful to get the sense of the reviewers' opinions, even on reviews they just then rewrote.

I began to get very uncomfortable when I realized how often they were mellowing out my negative reviews (or flat out making them positive), which happened most frequently when I complained about racial stereotypes in books. Tonight, I happened across one such review from many years ago. It was one of the only reviews I ever wrote where they kept the word "stereotype," though they made the assessment of the book much more positive than I did. I assume they kept the word because I provided textual support: six quotations, including awful representation of Native Americans, East Asians, and indigenous South Americans. One of those quotations was a massive othering of the protagonist of color starting from the book's opening pages, while several others were repulsive depictions of a non-Western country's everyday elements as being nasty, superstious, and like unto gothic horror.

Eventually I realized that I was simply unwilling to have my name on the reviews as they were rewritten. Honestly, there was a part of my brain that said "if Debbie Reese critiques something said under my name, am I willing to stand behind it?" [1]

So here's why I love Kirkus:
  • If I can provide textual support for an assessment, my editor has my back.
  • Vicky has never once suggested I'm too sensitive to representation issues in fiction; she's only asked me for textual support.
  • If the judgement is changed in a review, she usually tells me why and I trust her decisions.
  • She's asked me for a second opinion when she wanted a confirmation on a review that mentions a group I'm a part of, and I assume she does it with reviews I write as well, which adds to my confidence.
  • My name's not on the reviews anyway, woohoo


In short, Kirkus++.




[1] I second-guess my reviews all the time. I still regret reviews in which I was, in retrospect, overly concerned with a social justice analysis which was inappropriate for the length of the review and the depth of the problem. I also regret reviews in which I let deeply problematic elements of a book slide. It's a perennial balancing act. To anyone who thinks reviewers shouldn't address social justice concerns in their reviews, I obviously think you're profoundly mistaken, and I can write about that later if anyone wants, but that's another story for another post.

I also second-guess my reviews for other reasons. Was I too kind to a bland waste of paper? Was I overly influenced by an author's fame? Did I conflate my taste with quality (in either direction)? Did I ignore the value a book would serve to its readers despite all its problems? Do I need to stop reviewing when I'm battling migraine aura? That's why I recommend trusting more than one professional review source, especially if you're buying on a budget for a collection (eg librarians, teachers). Personally I recommend Kirkus and PW, but YMMV.

[back]
deborah: Kirkus Reviews: OM NOM NOM BRAINS (kirkus)
It's really quite impressive how many conversations between Kirkus reviewers about books end with one of us asking, Why is everyone so racist? :(
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Free Government Infomation's Best. Titles. Ever. is back! It's now a tumblr, it's hilarious as ever, and it's managed by the amazing Aimee. Come for the lulz, stay for the muskrat meat. Thanks, GPO and Pueblo, Colarado.

This mab of the London Tube is rendered entirely in CSS! It's hasn't taken advantage of that for accessibility, but it'd be easy: a positioned off-screen header before each line, some text to announce junctions of two lines.

In response to "Of 3,200 children’s books published in 2013, just 93 were about black people":

Christopher Myers: "The Apartheid of Children’s Literature" in the NYT.

The mission statements of major publishers are littered with intentions, with their commitments to diversity, to imagination, to multiculturalism, ostensibly to create opportunities for children to learn about and understand their importance in their respective worlds. During my years of making children’s books, I’ve heard editors and publishers bemoan the dismal statistics, and promote this or that program that demonstrates their company’s “commitment to diversity.” With so much reassurance, it is hard to point fingers, but there are numbers and truths that stand in stark contrast to the reassurances.


And père. Walter Dean Myers: Where Are the People of Color in Children’s Books?

Simple racism, I thought. On reflection, though, I understood that I was wrong. It was racism, but not simple racism. My white co-worker had simply never encountered a black chemist before. Or a black engineer. Or a black doctor. I realized that we hired people not so much on their résumés, but rather on our preconceived notions of what the successful candidate should be like. And where was my boss going to get the notion that a chemist should be black?



deborah: the Library of Congress cataloging numbers for children's literature, technology, and library science (Default)
Tressie McMillan Cottom isn't a techie; she's an academic specialising in "education, inequality, and organizations". I've been fascinated by her blogging on her research topic: for-profit education. Tressie has worked in both for-profit and non-profit, so she has a bigger grasp of the distinctions than many of us who are advocates for one side or the other.

Anyway, today -- presumably not for Ada Lovelace Day; Tressie's not, as I said, in tech -- she coincidentally posted: "One of These Things is Not Like The Other: Speaking While Black."

On the trip from the ballroom to the lounge I was stopped by three black hotel staff workers. I’m used to this. They are often older, but not always. Either way, they’ve worked in places like the Hilton for many years and they have rarely, if ever, seen someone who looks like me — like them — on the stage. They want me to know they’re proud of me. I’m a good southern girl so I mind my manners and my elders. I say yes ma’am, I’m in school. Yes, sir, my momma sure is proud of me. Thank you for praying for me.

Even my colleagues make a point of telling me that they are proud, of acknowledging my existence. A loquacious, entertaining, generous senior professor from Illinois bee-lined towards me as I found an empty seat. He didn’t even bother with introductions, as family is liable to do. He just started in with, “i sure did like seeing you up there.” I know what he means but he wants me to be clear. He goes on to tell me how long he has come to events like this and how rarely he has seen a brown face at the front of the “big room”

He asked what, by the end of the day, I was asked about half a dozen times: “how did that happen?!”


We're making excellent (if slow) inroads into getting more female representation of speakers at tech conferences. I hope we're ready to make similar inroads with the vast racial disparity (at least at every tech conference I've ever attended, in the US and in Europe).

Tressie's post is illuminating. She's a model for me, even though our fields of interested don't overlap at all.

Happy Ada Lovelace Day, everybody.

And, hey, just to make this an official Ada Lovelace Day post, here's to Kimberly Bryant, founder of the amazing Black Girls Code. I don't know that much about her that I haven't read in press for BGC, but that's impressive enough:

Kimberly’s daughter, who is currently in middle school, has been interested in technology and an avid gamer since the age of 8. Several years ago, after realizing her daughter would frequently get bored with videogames, Kimberly wanted to show her how to make one and enrolled her in a summer game development program at Stanford. “It was a great experience for her,” explains Kimberly. “But there were only about 3 girls out of approximately 25 students and she was the only person of color enrolled.”

As a result of these experiences, Kimberly decided to launch Black Girls CODE, a nonprofit that encourages young minority women to pursue a career in technology by providing them with workshops and after-school programs focused on a wide range of tech-related topics. “Our goal,” Kimberly explains, “is to address the gender and diversity gap in technology and to feed girls into the STEM pipeline as early in their development years as possible.”


--"Kimberly Bryant, Black Girls Code"
deborah: the Library of Congress cataloging numbers for children's literature, technology, and library science (Default)
So I have long understood the critiques of relying on Peggy McIntosh and Tim Wise for introducing white students to race theory and the concepts of privilege. And (while they are not the same person and should not be painted with the same brush), Tim Wise's current panstlessness on Twitter has reminded me of a question I've been meaning to ask for a while.

While I know that there are plenty of excellent writings by people of color on the concept of privilege, I've never found anything, personally, as good as The Invisible Knapsack for really doing that first, preliminary, kindergarten step of introducing the concepts to white students who are initially resistant to the ideas. Given that pretty much anyone with any privilege on any axis is going to get their back up the first time they learn about the concepts, and white students especially given how overwhelming the racial problems are in this country and how much the dominant narrative wants us to believe in a post-racial society, I really like starting with something gentle, something they find it harder to kneejerk argue with. It's certainly not where I finish, but I have found it to be a useful starting point.

I'm sure there must be other introductory essays which are similarly clear and gentle but also written by POC, but my librarian skills are failing me. Anyone have any good recommendations?

(I know there's Scalzi's difficulty level essay, but that suffers from the exact same problem, and also doesn't actually particularly address my usual audience.)
deborah: the Library of Congress cataloging numbers for children's literature, technology, and library science (Default)
Brynt Johnson is a records manager in the clerk's office of the District of Columbia's federal court by day, and a personal trainer to Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Elena Kagan by night.

"Hot Mess", children's author Zetta Elliot's post about trauma (particularly African-American trauma) in children's books, estrangement, privilege,and race in the industry.

I read a lot of science blogs, and I'm always excited to see archives show up in science blogs. Here's one we probably wouldn't have expected: "Wormholes in old folks preserve the history of insects". An evolutionary biologist from Penn State has used insect holes in prints made from old wood blocks to study the spread of particular wood-boring beetles. The prints, rather than the blocks themselves, show an accurate timestamp of when the beetles emerged and where, because the texts usually contain the information about when they were printed and where they were printed. The power of old metadata, people!
deborah: The management regrets that it was unable to find a Gnomic Utterance that was suitably irrelevant. (gnomic)
[personal profile] sanguinity / [tumblr.com profile] sanguinarysanguinity recently reposted Chrystos' "Those tears," and it got me thinking about how differently derailing and appropriation plays out when it comes to the quest for accessibility. In disabled spaces, of course derailing and outsider claims of authenticity & knowledge happen. "I'm myopic so I understand blindness," "Oh, I get obsessive compulsive as well, I totally have to check that the oven is turned off before I can leave the house," "Man, my boss was a jerk today, and I am so out of spoons," "I'm sore from typing I totally get it," "I'm such a napper; I totally get CFIDS," "I just love signing, we should talk so I can show you how much I've learned!"

(The management refuses to state how many of these she personally has said on the grounds that doing so will incriminate her.)

(Also I am not intending to disability police with those quotations. PWD can say those exact same words, and if somebody says they have a disability than they do. My concern is not with trying to police people who say they are disabled, but with people who will willingly say they are not at all disabled but also insist that the general wear and tear of being a human being in the world makes them completely understand what it is to be disabled.)

But the weird thing about disability is that because of the very nature of human bodies, their frailty that makes some people choose to use the label "TAB", meaning the "Temporarily Able-Bodied" when referring to people who do not have disabilities, it means that in some senses the outsider intrusions can actually be useful. Whenever upper management breaks a leg, offices suddenly start seeing automatic door opener buttons and cleared paths to elevators. When entitled brogrammers get sore hands and have to take a break from mousing, they often become more respectful of the need to use alternative input devices (except for those who are privileged enough they can afford to hire typists and think everyone else with RSI should do the same grr argh). When I had a vitreous detachment bad enough to impress my optometrist but still a normal side effect of aging, I started to appreciate the difference between correctable and uncorrectable vision problems in a way that walking around without my glasses could never explain to me (because I can always just put them back on).

Of course, it can go the other way. "Well, I had the flu, and I still came to work [EDITOR'S NOTE: oh please no!], so I don't see why you can't work with CFIDS." "I broke both my legs and still never needed a seat on the bus, so I don't see why you need one." "I can get around my house with my glasses off, so why do you need a dog to get to work?" Not all people are willing to put any effort into empathy.

But still, I see how that outsider invasion can have some utility when it comes to disability, in a way that doesn't apply when you are talking about, say, white women inserting themselves into spaces for women of color, or cis straight folks inserting themselves into queer spaces. In a disability space you can potentially draw on that claim that human physical frailty creates connection in order to push (temporarily) able-bodied folks to change their physical spaces. They still might be invading spaces which ought to be safe spaces for PWD, but some utility can be found for that. Meanwhile, if I, as a white woman, insert myself into a WOC space, I don't see how the women of color can extract any utility from my invasion.

This is me thinking aloud, and I'm not sure my thoughts have boiled into anything useful as yet.
deborah: The management regrets that it was unable to find a Gnomic Utterance that was suitably irrelevant. (gnomic)
I had this whole draft post written out which explained how it came to be that

came to record ourselves sitting around for several hours one wonderful afternoon talking about feminist readings of E. Lockhart's young adult novel The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks, but Amy's introduction to the videos is so thorough and informative that I can't improve on it.

All I can say is that I will forever be grateful to the Simmons College Center for the Study of Children's Literature (where, full disclosure, I teach) for introducing me to these wonderful people1 and for giving us all the tools and the support to think about literature in so many interesting, productive ways.

Go watch the videos.

(Hey, Kristin just posted, too!)




  • Technically, fandom introduced me to Amy. She is only one of the many wonderful people introduced to me by fandom for whom I will forever be grateful. Fandom, incidentally, also gives people some pretty good textual analysis tools. [back]

deborah: Kirkus Reviews: OM NOM NOM BRAINS (kirkus)
the amazing [livejournal.com profile] diceytillerman, with assist from [personal profile] sanguinity, has made an excellent bulleted list of "A few things to think about when reading fiction about American Indians". I find this list incredibly valuable as a reviewer.

(This list is also valuable in reading fiction which is not about American Indians or other native populations, but which talks about them. I think of all the books I've reviewed for which the character, almost always white, shows their Social Justice Awesomeness by doing a school report about How We Killed off All the Indians Because We Are Bad, or has their epiphany moment by going on a Dream Vision Quest and giving themselves a name like Happy Running Deer. When I get one of those books, I'm coming back to this list.)
deborah: Kirkus Reviews: OM NOM NOM BRAINS (kirkus)
I wanted to make a post about The Hunger Games trilogy before I saw the movie, because I didn't want this post about the trilogy in general to be colored by how much I'm having reactions to the film right now. Instead, I will break it into two parts. And if I wait until I have all of my thoughts coherent before I make this post, the second movie will be out, so maybe I should just go ahead and post it.

Why I will not stop judging the trilogy for my own misreading of book one )

A subset of my reactions to the film, mostly but not entirely in that context )

General non-spoilery positive thought: if this movie and trilogy of movies do as well as it looks like they might, perhaps it could be the end of the of no female action heroes or superheroines in film? Television realized a decade ago that there's money to be made with high-quality female action heroes; will film finally catch up? Where the studio realizes that not only do women have plenty of money that they like to spend on movies marketed to women, but also men show up for these movies and buy tickets as well?

And for a completely non-academic note: when I was talking to my boss about how awesome Lenny Kravitz's portrayal of Cinna was, she said "everyone wants a Cinnabon".

Book Lists

Nov. 30th, 2011 11:03 am
deborah: the Library of Congress cataloging numbers for children's literature, technology, and library science (Default)
The Happy Nappy Bookseller has compiled a list of middle grade and young adult books by authors of color published in 2011 to complement Zetta Elliott's list of middle grade and young adult books by black authors published in 2011. 47 black authors published 2 American Indian authors published 28 Asian authors published 17 Latino authors published 2 authors of Mixed heritage published These lists could be useful resources!
deborah: Kirkus Reviews: OM NOM NOM BRAINS (kirkus)
I like to start off my semester by talking to students about how you can love media you find deeply flawed; part of learning to think critically is being willing to put aside your affection or dislike for a text for a little while. (And then you need to be able to take your emotional reaction back, and see what happens to it when informed by critical thinking. I'm all about multilayered response.) The examples I use are usually texts which are deeply flawed vis-à-vis some axis of political oppression which touches me personally: feminism, usually. There are plenty of movies I love that have deeply ingrained misogyny. On another axis, there's Georgette Heyer's The Grand Sophy, a fabulous book with the despicable Jewish moneylender.

But it's easy to talk about the the books you love when you're in the group under attack; not so easy when reading the book makes you into an attacker-by-proxy. Over at the Kirkus blog, Vicky Smith writes "Guilt and Pleasure":

Do you ever love a book that you feel you shouldn’t? I'm not talking about a typical “guilty pleasure” sort of book--legions of smart, emancipated women find themselves tucking into Twilight and its spawn as if they were chocolate-covered nougats. A little shamefacedly, they confess that they find the sexual politics of so many of these books utterly retrograde but nevertheless hugely enjoyable. But that guilt is a light one, not the kind that a person really feels, well, guilty about.


And then Vicky talks about what it feels like, both as a reader and as a reviewer, to have enjoyed 13th Child. It's an interesting essay, I think. As a reviewer, I share the worry she addresses:

A colleague at another book review asked me that summer, "What are you going to do about Thirteenth Child?" Of course, we had already done it. Because of our ferocious pre-publication schedule, we had gone to press with a starred review before I ever became aware of the controversy. Certainly, I was a member of that presumed non-Native audience, and I lapped the whole book up without thinking twice.


I'm not sure I know anyone who deals with books -- whether reviewers, authors, teachers, or readers (and I assume folks in publishing, although they have tighter constraints on what they can say in public) -- who doesn't occasionally have deep regret over the public or private reactions they had to a work they later realized was deeply problematic, or about problems in their own fiction. And I'm not sure I know anyone who doesn't love some deeply troubling fiction. I tell my students that you can love something and find it troubling, as part of your job as a critical thinker is gaining the ability to reconcile those. But it's a lot easier for me to reconcile my feelings about great books with despicable Jewish moneylenders than it is for me to reconcile my love for, oh, A Horse and His Boy or A Little Princess. It's easier to forgive (the book? myself for loving the book?) when I'm not reading from a position of privilege.

This goes beyond Wrede to so much of our literature, both great and not-so-great. Every year children devour the Little House books despite their terribly hurtful depictions of Native Americans, for instance. Some of us give Laura Ingalls Wilder a pass of sorts, saying she was a product of her times, a forgiveness that we cannot extend to Wrede—and, depending on the reader, to ourselves, when we enjoy her series.


Read the piece, it's thought-provoking.
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The always brilliant [livejournal.com profile] diceytillerman has a guest post up at The Rotund: "Fat Reader Singing". It's a great post about two books that I now have to put on my to-be-read list, about young adult books with successful, happy fat characters who don't lose weight. And apparently, if Rebecca is to be believed, fat characters with disabilities. And in one case, a fat character of color with a disability. It's as if it were okay to publish books with each character doesn't stand in for a single item in the Benetton circle of diversity!

She also links to a couple of responses I'd forgotten about to Scott Westerfeld's Missing Black Woman Formation, which I'm glad I reread. Although I still maintain that the Missing Black Woman Formation is endemic in middle grade adventure fiction, especially spy-fi, where there are way too many adventures where the hero is a white boy and his sidekicks are the white girl and the boy who has something that makes it impossible for him to be the hero (he's fat, Asian, poor, redhaired and freckled and comes from a large family and is clearly Irish Catholic even if that's never identified, black, not as smart as the hero, disabled, etc.). But even so, those posts about the MBWF make me want to go back and look again at all of those middle grade adventure books to see if I am fairly categorizing them, or their characters.

Actually, right now, off the top of my head, it occurs to me that I am ignoring Anne Ursu's Cronus Chronicles, which first of all has two protagonists, who are first cousins. And secondly, they're the white girl and the multiracial boy. In a fantasy book that's not about race, that's actually kind of a big deal.
deborah: Kirkus Reviews: OM NOM NOM BRAINS (kirkus)
Last night I attended the Cambridge, Massachusetts stop of the Diversity in YA tour, with Malinda Lo, Cindy Pon, Holly Black, Sarah Rees Brennan, Deva Fagan, and Francisco X. Stork. I was impressed with the authors, but disappointed with the panel.

Putting the reason for my disappointment behind a cut )

On a related note, it's time for the third year of Nerds Heart YA, which builds dynamic long and short list of books that represent one of a series of relatively under publicized categories:

Specifically, the lists will consist of books that:
  • Were published in 2010
  • Have received minimum press on blogs
  • Feature characters, or are penned by authors, who fall within the following categories:
    • Person(s) of Color (POC)
    • GLBT
    • Disability
    • Mental Illness
    • Religious Lifestyle
    • Lower Socioeconomic Status
    • Plus-size



This year's shortlist has been chosen, and includes some very exciting books. Check it out!
deborah: the Library of Congress cataloging numbers for children's literature, technology, and library science (Default)
Amy Stern ([livejournal.com profile] bigbrotherreads) has let me be a guest blogger on her blog YA Subscription, and I started off my contributions there with a post on Francesca Lia Block's Dangerous Angels quintet. I talk about feminism, race, sexuality, and intersectionality, and I'm surprised by how much I liked the books on reread.

(I sent the post to Amy a while ago, and reading it now for the first time in ages I am embarrassed to see how many typos that are in it; I thought I proofread that thing about 17 times. But such is the blogosphere.)

Anyway, please, go over there, contribute to the conversation!

On another note, I feel like Kristin Cashore has joined the ranks of bloggers such as Ta Nahesi Coates and Slacktivist who are just too smart and useful to miss. It feels somehow dirty to say that about someone who is a friend, but I think it's true.
deborah: the Library of Congress cataloging numbers for children's literature, technology, and library science (Default)
I continue to be troubled by the Edwards awards. Here is the list of previous winners of the Edwards award.
24 winners )Maybe I'm missing something, but out of 24 winners I count two authors of color (both black), three out queer women (and two authors of explicitly homophobic books to balance them out). As long as I am running statistics in my head, I also get two authors of nonfiction,11 authors known primarily for their realistic fiction for young readers, 4 authors known primarily for fantasy or science fiction for adults, 1 author known primarily for suspense and mystery for young readers, 1 author known primarily for humor.

When compared with the Printz (11 winners, 4 winners of color -- 2 black, one Korean born American, one American of Taiwanese descent; no out authors), the Edwards starts looking like they are not really paying attention to representation when they make statements of lifetime achievement. And I don't just mean representation vis-à-vis the usual factors, but also genre. In those 11 years, Printz winners included one fantasy graphic novel, two post-apocalyptic novels (one far future and one near future), one humor novel, and a couple of really weird surrealist pieces. No mysteries, horror, nonfiction, romance, or thrillers. (Expanding to include the Printz honors-- which isn't fair, because the Edwards award only gets to honor one person the year, so I should be comparing apples to apples -- nets you a whole variety of things I'm not going to run statistics on right now, including several out authors, a heroic crown of sonnets, a couple of books which are at least kinda-kinda as far as fat politics goes, steampunk, autobiography, nonfiction, funny chicklit, and yes, Terry Pratchett. Also a wide variety of books about queerness written by straight people and books about people of color written by white people, but at least the books in question are awesome.)

In this light, I am more happy about the Pratchett award in the Edwards' just because that means they have finally given an award to humor, although personally I'd have been happier to see it go to someone like Pinkwater. Nancy Werlin would go a long way to approaching the dearth of representation for suspense and mystery. I can't even begin to approach the absence of horror from that list. I'm not fond of the genre myself, but even if you don't want to credit R. L. Stine, Christopher Pike, and Anthony Horowitz, you could give a little bit of love to John Bellairs. Chicklit would be well represented by Meg Cabot.
deborah: the Library of Congress cataloging numbers for children's literature, technology, and library science (Default)
The Happy Nappy Bookseller has been running this great series profiling Latino authors of MG/YA books. The series started when she did some research and discovered only 16 MG/YA books published this year in the United States by Latino authors: "More Latino Authors Please/ necesitamos mas autores Latinos". The jumping off point for each of these profiles is the blog post "Authentic Latino voices" by Mayra Lazara Dole, author of Down to the Bone.

"Authentic Latino voices" touches on two issues: one is the question of authenticity and opportunity for authors and editors with a Latino background, which is often raised and for which there are plenty of intelligent arguments on every side of the issue. But the core of Mayra Lazara Dole's post, which I've seen far less often, is about the lack of representation in literature of the diversity of Latino experience:

Latino cultures are as distinct and diverse as ants (which, by the way, have over 280 species). All Spanish-speaking folks don’t share the same culture, heritage, dialect, or culinary traditions.



Also from the Happy Nappy Bookseller, how did I not know about Nerds Heart YA? The contest has the aim of showcasing books that had not received as much publicity as the big hitter books of 2009. This year, the contest focused on diversity, which they defined as books which feature characters, or are penned by authors, who fall within the following categories:
  • Person(s) of Color (POC)
  • GLBT
  • Disability/Mental Illness
  • Religious Lifestyle
  • Lower Socioeconomic Status


I love the idea of making sure we hear about the books that aren't quite so much featured in the echo chamber, even though most of the echo chamber books were also fabulous.



Philip Nel, over at Nine Kinds of Pie, writes about how "Book banners hurt young people". Nel looks at the list of frequently banned and challenged books and notices that most of them depict difficulties faced by children and teens. Nel points out Children in vulnerable populations need to read books that help them make sense of their experiences. On Nel's mind, as on everyone's right now, is the suicide rate of queer teens, but his point is more general.
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